After two seasons of hearing "he can get it done in the minors, but when will be finally do something in the NHL?", Anton Lander finally did something. 24 years old this past April, precious close to aging out of the Top 25 Under 25 entirely, Lander ran off twenty points and finished ninth on the Edmonton Oilers' scoring charts, all the more impressive given that he played 38 big league games and was the seventh-leading scorer of the late Oklahoma City Barons as well.
So that's fantastic! Strike up the band, plan the parade, march down the streets until the crowd is slaughtered by a malfunctioning LRT, Anton Lander has arrived!
Regulars are holding their breath for the reveal of trademark Ben Massey facetiousness. But no. God knows it took long enough, but Lander actually has demonstrated that he's a solid NHL player. Good for him.
What a middle-of-the-road pack of rankings Lander has attracted, like bored wolves attacking a stupid sheep. We know what we should be doing, and we'll go about it professionally, but there's nothing to really get excited about. Is Lander fit to play in the NHL? Yes, obviously. Are his abilities as a basically useful bottom-six forward enough to rank him with the Nurses and the Draisatls? No, obviously not. Well that was easy. It's Labour Day, crack open a brew and chill while I tell you about this broadly okay forward who we could, regardless, replace for seventeen cents if we weren't the Oilers.
Obviously Lander's conventional statistics have brought interest. 0.526 points per game, behind only Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, and Pouliot, is completely respectable for a lower-line centre on a garbage team. Yet he got powerplay time, and four of his six goals came on the man advantage. Among Edmonton centres, Lander got more ice time per game than all but Nugent-Hopkins, the departed Mark Arcobello, and late-acquired Derek Roy. Once he finally made it to the NHL, Lander played on the regular and was given a few opportunities to score. He did so. Well done.
And for the PDOphiles his relative Corsi For%, 2.9%, was eleventh on the team; not great but perfectly respectable, and well above most of his fellow AHL scrubs like the Hamiltons, Will Acton, and Steve Pinithere'snopointlearninghowtospellthis. He started in the defensive zone slightly more than the offensive, though he doesn't bear comparing with Boyd Gordon. Neither his shooting percentage nor his PDO tell us he's in line for a sharp regression. I'm afraid I didn't get his Nielson numbers; I was distracted by a finch.
The question is whether Lander can really be the third- or second-line centre the Oilers need. If he keeps scoring more than half a point per game and chipping in on the man advantage he might well crack the top six, but the truth is Lander is 24 and that's awful late in life to find your hands. He could attempt the third-line role, but since Boyd Gordon spent all of last year in the defensive zone getting beaten with pillowcases full of batteries we don't know if Lander can handle the tough sledding; his dreadful -12 (worst among Oilers who played so few games) is a bad sign. And if Lander is just a really good fourth-line centre then he really isn't anything. That leaves plenty of room for optimism, but not much for celebration.
It's all perfectly middle-of-the-road. That's fine! That's great! Lander was selected in the second round of 2009, and a middle-of-the-road player there is a success. Some nice players went after Lander - even if we don't count the Detroit Red Wings picks, since they cheat, OIL could have wound up with Tyson Barrie, Cody Eakin, or Reilly Smith without getting into the real sleepers - but there have been a lot more busts. On current form, Lander was a good get for Stu MacGregor, and there's a phrase we haven't had cause to use much.
If I may flatter certain of our readers, the example of Anton Lander should bring hope to the fans of David Musil. Musil is a good, fundamental defensive player who looks like ought to make it but has struggled, struggled, oh how he has struggled to turn that into a NHL career. We could say exactly the same for Lander, exchanging a couple of weaknesses that apply to one but not the other but keeping the same broad outlook. Yet it seems to be a truism that basically reliable players, like Lander, like Musil, can count on a few chances. Coaches quickly behead a Rob Schremp or a Linus Omark, who if he ain't scorin' ain't helpin', but the Lander-Musil types can rely on a few chances to show their quality.
Heaven knows Lander needed a few shots but, at last, he has taken advantage of one. Welcome to the NHL, bud, and happy to have you.